Google+ (Plus) – What Is It?

If you haven’t heard that Google is launching it’s own social network then let me be the first to tell you.  The GAME is ON!  Google is gunning for facebook in a big way and is using every weakness that facebook has against it.  Seems Google has been quietly watching and learning from facebook, studying it’s failures and downfalls, and developing a strategy to take them on.

And it’s deceptively simple.

Google figured out one key problem in facebook. Everyone sees Everything!

That means when you post a message on facebook it gets sent to everyone by default. That means your Mum, your Boss, your Girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend), your Clients… EVERYONE get’s the same message. Which, if it’s a pic of you trashed on the weekend that has been kindly uploaded by your well-meaning friends, is not a great way to present yourself.

So the problem that was identified was, how to send some messages to some people, but not others? If I want to post work-related stuff how do my clients and colleagues get it, but not my booze-hound mates? How do I keep a separation between my online identities as easily as I do my real identities?

Did you catch that last bit? That’s right, your ‘real’ identities actually exist! (no not the different voices in your head hahaha)

For example, when I am visiting my Mum I am ‘David‘ – he doesn’t swear in front of Mum, eats all his vegies, talks about personal stuff and goo’s and gaa’s over newborns both animal and human.

Then there’s ‘Irish‘ which is my social identity – he swears and drinks like a sailor, doesn’t really give a hoot about kids or puppies, and only talks about personal stuff if he’s way too drunk.

Finally there’s ‘David Jardine‘ or ‘DJ‘ which is my professional identity – he sometimes swears, never comes in contact with small creatures of any kind, is always helpful and courteous and stays focussed on delivering value to his clients because he is the ultimate social media guru! (hahaha – nothing wrong with my ego hey?)

Anyway you get the point. Facebook tried to help keep these identities separate by introducing ‘Groups’ as a way to separate contacts into distinct areas, but in reality few people use it and it isn’t the Default way of doing things. So if you aren’t an organised person, the lines get blurry again real quick!

Google’s approach is the opposite.

They assume you have multiple identities in real life and figured out the best way to help maintain your connections online, was to set up the ‘groups’ (which Google calls ‘Circles’) right in the beginning and help you build your network from that starting point. They decided this would be a better way to approach the entire ‘social network’ concept, and thus developed Google Plus or more commonly known as Google Circles.

The concept is pretty simple, you setup a label for a Circle (circle of friends, circle of influence etc) and then drag-and-drop your friends into those circles. Communication between you and your Circles is then directed to each Circle you wish to send something to, so posts about work go to your Work Circle and so on.

Google Plus has added some other cool features, such as the ‘Hangout‘ which is basically a way to have impromptu virtual video chat sessions online. Think a group Skype chat with video, but one that anyone in your circle can join anytime. I’m not fully sold on this feature as a social medium myself although I can immediately see the business application for it (support, training, webinars etc). I’ll let you check that one out for yourself.

The Instant Upload feature is designed to take the pain out of ‘uploading’ pics and videos to your online social media but Im not convince don this one either. The idea is that every pic you take, or every video you take with your phone is instantly uploaded to your Google+ account. From there you decide who to share it with which is good because I take plenty of bad pics I don’t want shared. My problem with it is this is going to add a hefty whack to your mobile broadband costs if you are a heavy pic/vid taker, and overall just feels a bit too intrusive to me. I don’t really want EVERYTHING I do to be online, there’s a line there for me and ‘automatic instant uploading’ is on the other side of it.

Sparks is feature that looks like a cross between subscribing to RSS feeds, and using Tags to find them. Think Technorati with a Subscribe feature. For me there are plenty of ways to achieve this already such as my daily trip to my Feedly newspaper, so I don’t see huge value here either. It’s not clear right now who provides the Google Plus content you ‘tag’ as an interest, and with millions of people creating millions of tags, I think the end result may well be a mish-mash as more people use it. I much prefer to find a specific content provider and subscribe direct to their feed.

The last feature I’m going to talk about is Huddle. Now this I have been waiting for, but it comes with a warning. Huddle is a like a group notification list, like an SMS group list of sorts. Say you are out on the town, you can send a message to your Huddle and everyone on that list gets notified and can interact. The messages get stored in one long thread so everyone can read the histroy and can add their comment too. Makes a nice way to keep a group of friends in the loop as to what the group is doing.

My problem with it though, is control.

Say I have a Huddle of my friends, and I send a message out to them to come to my house. Great, everyone is effectively notified and can reply or chat or just come over. No problem. But say someone is on my Huddle and gets invited, and instead of coming they send a message to THEIR Huddle (which I am on) about some other plan, am I going to get those messages? To me that would be kind of rude.

So am I then required to manually select who gets what messages sent to which Huddle?

And is everyone required to do that?

If so, whats the big deal, I do that already by SMS anyway just by sending my text to multiple recipients. I don’t see the value in it really but I do see the potential for some embarrassing questions.

Anyway that’s my wrap on it. I see some small areas of potential for business and a great example of trying to think outside the box, but overall I’m not massively impressed. Nothing in Google Plus really does anything for me that I’m not doing right now with the tools I have at my disposal already. So If it isn’t going to revolutionise my online life, do I really need yet another social network to maintain?

Or do I just want Google to beat the pants of the snotty-nosed kid that Facebook has become >:P

Let me know your thoughts in the Comments!

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